Digestive Health

How to use the Glycemic Index chart to curb sugar cravings

The GI Index chart is something I absolutely abide by and deeply consider it one of my most profitable tools when it comes to my health.

Since referring to the GI chart, I’ve managed to reduce the most disruptive symptoms of my IBS, all by cutting out my sugar cravings. It also answered me tonnes of food-related questions which I never understood before… like:

Why does peanut butter on toast make me feel better than a ham sandwich?

“Why does a stir fry with noodles & veg make me fuller than Sweet & Sour pork with boiled rice?”

and “How come Cornflakes never satisfy me for more than an hour or two?”


What the GI index does is tell you by how much certain foods spike your insulin levels. When your insulin levels shoot up, your initial biological need for satiety is replaced by a neurological need to repeat the process again. The only way to overcome this feeling is to eat more insulin-inspiring foods (so more foods with a high GI). The foods with the highest GI are most commonly the worst for you, such as processed and carbohydrate foods like pizza, bagels, cakes and muffins. Insulin levels can creep up on you or smack you in the face, leading to either immediate snaffling of another biscuit, or a big bagel you’ve just been dying for 2 hours afterwards.

Having considered most bad foods do have a high GI, possibly the most jarring aspect of this chart is that it’s not just typically “bad for you” foods which instil over-eating and weight increases. Wholesome foods such as pasta, cereals, rice cakes and baked potatoes have some of the highest glycemic levels. This might explain why after an evening meal of jacket potato with baked beans makes you feel incredibly full (to the point of bloating), but you always seem to fit in a piece of sponge cake, or a handful of Maltesers for afterwards.

So here’s the list of the worst foods with the highest glycemic index you’ve probably got stored away in your cupboard or fridge at home. Please note, I’m not going to advise throwing them away and never eating them again.

Lowering your GI

No, the great thing about abiding by the GI chart is that foods with a high GI can be neutralised or balanced out by adding in foods which are low GI. So a bowl of pasta in sauce might be naturally spiking your insulin levels, but when you make sure your plate is around 2/3 vegetables, you’ll see your sugar cravings drop and your fullness level reached more steadily. The same can be done with, say, homemade burritos. Simply throwing in some leafy greens and legumes like chickpeas can fill out the burrito as well as cutting down on the amount of rice (high GI) you’d usually put into it.

Alternatively, just make substitutions. So rather than a bowl of Cornflakes in the morning, have a bowl of bran flakes (GI of 55) or Muesli (66), or swap the boiled rice in your chilli con carne for Spaghetti (42) and have Spaghetti Bolognese instead!

High GI foods (above a glycemic index of 70)

Notice that a lot of these foods are either high carb, or highly processed ‘convenience’ foods

Baked potato (111)

White baguette (95)

Cornflakes (93)

White rice (89)

Instant mashed potato (87)

Instant oatmeal (83) – normal oatmeal is only 55

Pretzels (83)

Rice cakes (82)

Boiled white potato (82)

Pizza (80)

Low GI foods (below a glycemic index of 40)

Notice how a lot of these foods are foods which abide by the Paleo/ancestral diet, i.e. nuts, legumes, fruits and ancient grains.

Hummus (6)

Peanuts (7)

Grapefruit (25)

Cashews (27)

Kidney beans (29)

Lentils (29)

Skimmed milk (32)

Fettucini pasta (32) – this has the best GI index of any pasta.

M&Ms peanut (33) – note how the peanuts bring the m&m chocolate down i.e. a Snickers bar with added caramel to the chocolate is 51.

Barley bread (34)

For a full list of over 100 foods and their GI index, visit the Harvard University site here.


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